Tuesday, 3 January 2012

100 things…Where to backpack

After doing my initial research into backpacking, i found out a bit about where the best destinations to backpack are,  but i decided to further research into this to get a better idea of it, as it is one of the main things you need to know about to be able to do it.

Some Trip Ideas (or a little focus)
· Rivers: (spend some time in all these areas for a great trip) Nile, Ganges, Indus, Zambezi, Yangtze Kiang, Mekong and Danube.
· Easy Street: (great times, not so much to worry about) Thailand, Philippines, Turkey, Train/Hostel through Europe or Japan, New Zealand, Nepal, Guatemala, South Africa and Greece.
· Culture: (and some damn nice people) Syria, Iran, India, Ghana, Bolivia, Georgia, Ethiopia, Mali and North Vietnam/Laos and Philippines.
· Religion: (some 'centres' of the world) Rome, Israel, Punjab/Varanasi in India, Labella in the Ethiopian highlands and Buddhist sights in Nepal, India and Tibet.
· Overlanding: (famous and great open jaw trips) Istanbul - Cairo, México City - Panama City, Istanbul - Kathmandu, Cairo/Nairobi - Cape Town, Casablanca/Dakar - Accra, Bangkok - Bali, Santiago - Bogotá/Quito, London - Hong Kong (via trans Mongolian railway) and London - Athens/Istanbul.
· Compact circuits and great intro countries: (great for short trips) Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, The Gambia/Senegal, Jordan/Israel, Thailand/Cambodia, New Zealand, Uganda and Sri Lanka or Goa.
· Life's a Beach: (great destinations, lots of sand) Mozambique, Thailand, Philippines, Australia, South Africa, Turkey/Greece, Kerala/Goa (India), Honduras/Belize, Zanzibar/Lamu (Tanzania/Kenya) and of course Brazil.
· The highlife: (altitude, tough going, heavy breathing but spectacular scenery) Kyrgyzstan/Tajikistan, Chile/Bolivia, Nepal/Tibet, Kashmir (India/Pakistan) and Ladakh (India).

Some rightly popular and recommended independent travel countries
· India, Nepal & Sri Lanka
· New Zealand
· Turkey
· South Africa
· Thailand, Laos, Cambodia & Philippines
· Guatemala & México
· Brazil, Bolivia & Peru

Honorary mentions: USA (don't knock it until you've tried it), Western Europe (Italy/Spain) and Japan.

Recommended lesser travelled countries
· Syria or anywhere in the Middle East
· Leave the SE Asian mainland crowds behind and check out the amazing Philippines
· Ethiopia, Uganda & forgotten Kenya including Lamu Island
· Ghana, Benin & off-the-beaten track Brazil or forgotten India/Pakistan/Bangladesh
· Neglected Europe: Romania/Bulgaria/Macedonia
· Mozambique (parts away from South Africa) & Zimbabwe (parts)

Honorary mentions: Lesotho and Israel/Jordan. In South America try French Guyana. If you really want less travelled countries head to West Africa or Central Asia, but they are not particularly pleasant to backpack in. The advice is: don't worry about it - even in the most visited countries you can always find gems if you have the time.

Best lesser travelled countries and areas, for the more adventurous
· Myanmar & Indonesia- areas off the tourist trail
· Ukraine and other vast 'out of vogue' areas of Eastern Europe
· Iran
· The Caucasus and North Eastern Turkey
· Mountainous Kyrgyzstan/Tajikistan & Northern Pakistan
· Colombia (this can be dangerous, make sure you know where you are going)
· Honorary mentions: Most of the Middle East, The Xinjiang mountains (China)
· Ancient wonders of the world
· Africa: Ethiopia and Egyptian Pyramids & Temples
· South America: Cusco, the sacred valley, Machu Picchu, Peru and Rapa Nui (aka Easter Island), Chile
· Central America: Tikal, Guatemala & Teotihuacán,, México
· Asia: Great Wall of China, Angkor Wat, Cambodia & Bagan (Pagan), Myanmar
· Roman & Greek: Leptis Magna, Libya & Ba'albeck, Lebanon, not to mention Italy & Greece
· The Middle East: Petra, Jordan & Jerusalem

Honorary mentions: Chichen Itza and many others (México), and Palmyra (Syria), Remembered: Arg e Bam (Iran)

Wondrous buildings of the world
· Taj Mahal, India
· Aya Sofia and Selimiye Mosque (Edirne), Turkey
· Mosques of Esfahan and Yazd, Iran. Notably the Masjed-e Shāh
· Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan
· Most of the old city of Jerusalem
· Colosseum and old city of Rome, Italy
· Rock-hewn: Lalibela's churches, Ethiopia and Petra, Jordan

Honorary mentions: Vatican City, The Forbidden City (China), Palace of Versailles (France), Hampi (India), Grand Palace in Bangkok, Temples of Japan (Nara and Kyoto) and Sagrada Familia (Barcelona). Also the Eiffel Tower, The Banaue Rice Terraces (Philippines) Baha'i Gardens (Israel), Venice (Italy) and Mount Rushmore (USA).

Natural wonders of the world
· Almost any major mountain range or altiplano in the world. For accessibility the Himalayas in Nepal and, more so the Alps. For extra wow and isolation the Karakoram, the Pamir highway or Kyrgyzstan 'the Switzerland of Central Asia'.
· America's amazing national parks inc. Yosemite, Alaska and South West national parks (the Grand Canyon & Bryce Canyon NP the most notable)
· Great Barrier Reef or any big coral reef - Red sea is fantastic so are the waters off Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines
· New Zealand's fiordland, or similar examples in Norway, Iceland or Chile
· Patagonia and the Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
· Bolivian salt flats (Salar de Uyuni) and Altiplano
· Expensive, but amazing: Antarctica, Galapagos Islands, Pamir highway, Iceland and Ngorongoro crater (or any East African safari)

Honorary mentions: Iguazu Falls on Brazilian/Argentinean border, Namibia's Namib-Naukluft National Park plus Skeleton Coast & the Egyptian White Desert, Ha Long bay, The karst formations near Guilin, Lake Baikal, plus Uluru (Ayres Rock) and Fraser Island (Australia)

Some great regions (for striking beauty and/or culture)
· Karakoram area (Pakistan), Karakol (Kyrgyzstan) and Ladakh (India) - breathtaking mountains, slim crowds
· Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta of Colombia's Coast - amazing mountains meeting perfect beaches and islands if a little dangerous
· The Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, plus North-East Turkey) - deserts, mountains, churches, mosques and lots of wine/vodka
· Guatemala - try Todos Santos Cuchumatán on Nov 1st or Antigua during Semana Santa
· Jordan/Syria/Lebanon/Israel - don't be put off, amazing
· North Laos/Vietnam - difficult and bumpy transport, unique and beautiful region
· Central Sulawesi and Eastern Indonesia - a whole world to explore
· Southern Africa - best with your own transport: Deserts to Vic falls to Great White shark dives

Honorary mentions: Chilean lake district and Patagonia (very south) and Yunnan province (Xishuangbanna is over-rated, but mountains around Dali are not) in China

Great places
Some cities or hang-outs that make you feel amazed and happy to be alive...
· Antigua, Guatemala (Easter week aka Semana Santa, amazing)
· The great cities of Europe (London, Paris, Krakow, St. Petersburg, Berlin and Venice/Rome)
· Jaisalmer and loads of other hangouts in India and Nepal: Simila, Varkala, Goa and Pokhara
· Jerusalem, rather a lot in a small area or New York, a modern wonder of the world
· Butterfly Valley, near Fethiye, Turkey also Cappadocia in Turkey
· Cusco in Peru or San Agustn and Zona Cafetera, in Colombia
· Yangshuo, China & Zanzibar, Tanzania
· Australian big cities especially Sydney and Melbourne

Honorary mentions: Esfahan (Iran), Urumqi's Heavenly Lake (China), Karimabad (Pakistan), Luang Prabang (Laos) and San Francisco

Terrific places to have a great time
· Greek Islands
· Thailand (especially the islands)
· Turkey
· Brazil
· México

Top tourist traps, but deservedly so
· Agra (home of India's Taj Mahal)
· Florence, Venice and Rome
· New York, Washington DC, London, Paris, Amsterdam and Sydney
· Nepal & Thailand's islands and beaches
· Antigua, Guatemala (and the rest)
· Cairo/Luxor, Egypt
· Dogon Country, Mali
· Vic Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia
· Northern Tanzania/Zanzibar Island

Honorary mentions: Krakow (historic Polish city), Edinburgh, Romania's Transylvania with its rolling hills, mountains and medieval towns and castles, Bali and the Gili Islands, Kyoto and Gyeongju

Maddest Places
· Varanasi (and pretty much all of Northern India)
· Tokyo & Osaka
· Lagos, Nigeria or Dhaka, Bangladesh
· Ho Chi Minh City, aka. Saigon
· Cotonou, Benin
· Honorary mentions: Marrakech, México City and Cairo
· Places to unwind
· On a boat - Mekong, Niger or YangtzeKiang slow boat and Nile Feluccas (probably best to avoid public vessels if you want to chill)
· On the beach - Varkala, Goa (India), Bay Islands (Honduras) or Ko Tao et al. (Small (touristy) Thai island)
· By a lake - Lake Malawi (Nakata or Monkey bay), Lake Atitlán or El Estor (Guatemala) or Lake Titicaca (Bolivia/Peru).
· Others - Huge inlet, quiet town - Kotor, Montenegro; or peaceful, mystical China - Yangshuo or quiet fly-in only island - Lamu, Kenya

Nicest people
· Iran
· Pakistan (Northern areas)
· Ghana & Sudan
· India/Nepal (in the right places/circumstances)
· Georgia & Turkey

Honorary mentions: Cuba and Ethiopia. As a general rule of thumb, the more travellers the less friendly people get. So head off the beaten track and venture to destinations most would be put off visiting. There are many such suggestions above.

Great train journeys
· Dakar (Senegal) to Bamako (Mali): an out-of-this world 30-36 hours - very hard work, may leave you mentally scarred!
· Trans Siberian/Mongolian: Moscow to (generally) Beijing, passing through some of the worlds most remote places for days on end
· Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) to (almost) Lusaka (Zambia): pass through pristine African bush for two days and a night - better value than the raved about Nairobi to Mombasa line. Get off at Mbeya to travel Malawi.
· From Calama (Chile) to Uyuni (Bolivia): a cold at times high-altitude lunar type experience.

Honorary mentions: Any train journey in India or China, Japan's Shinkansen (bullet) trains which with a rail pass are quite affordable, without - ridiculously expensive.

Spoiled by Tourism
· Spanish Mediterranean Islands
· Cancun and Yucatan Peninsula
· Greek Islands
· Turkish Aegean coast
· Bali (Kuta) & Fiji's tourist hubs

Honorary mentions: Kathmandu, Everest Trail and base camp, Bora Bora and Thai Islands

Keep an eye on your things
· Nairobi (Nai-robberi)
· Delhi/Agra/Varanasi
· Johannesburg/Cape Town
· Costa Rica
· Prague

Honorary mentions: Bogotá, Lagos, Cusco, Lahore hotel rooms

Worst forms of transport
· Filipino island ferries
· Indian or Pakistani Himalayan/Karakoram jeep
· Dushanbe to Khorog (45min) flight
· Kenyan matatus
· West African Bush taxis

Honorary mentions: Lao Mekong fast boat, Bangkok Tuk-Tuk, and night buses in Colombia

Budget travellers beware
· Main East-coast Chinese cities & Hong Kong
· Bhutan and others where 'technically' you need to be on an expensive tour to gain entry
· Israel, Botswana and Brazil
· Moscow & St. Petersburg plus other large cities of fast developing nations where high inflation levels have pushed costs beyond what many budget travellers might expect (for example: Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, etc.)
· Amazing, but shockingly expensive islands: Galapagos Islands, Iceland, much or the Caribbean & French Polynesia
· East African activities (Gorilla viewing, Kilimanjaro climb or any safari)
· Honorary mentions: Mexican, West African nations using the CFA, Brunei, Australia, Timbuktu - or getting to any famed remote Sahara town and not taking out medical insurance!
· Closed borders - where 'overlanding' plans come unstuck
· Africa: Algeria/Libya (fly over)
· Middle East: Israel - Lebanon and Syria plus numerous other nations that won't like that passport stamp
· Asia: Korea (North and South); Burma (some access overland, but no way into India/Bangladesh); India - China (go via Nepal or Pakistan)
· Europe: Europe's last closed borders are Armenia with Turkey and Azerbaijan
· Central to South America: Panama - Colombia (fly or sail), not so much a closed boarder as an extremely difficult one

Honorary mention: Ethiopia – Eritrea

Current bargains
· Indonesia
· Iran
· Ghana and Zimbabwe
· Iceland, although still expensive by almost any standards the economic melt-down has made it at least on par with the rest of Western Europe.
· As always: India/Pakistan/Nepal/Sri Lanka/Bangladesh

Honorary mentions: as the dollar is still good value, countries with dollar fixed currencies are getting much cheaper, i.e. Ecuador, Panama (plus most of Central America) and of course the USA

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